Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - April 3, 2020

The best medicine

One of the things that has surprised me in the current COVID-19 situation is how much I have been laughing. It seems that every major threat to a person's well-being activates the funny bone in someone. Certainly the flu pandemic of 1918 was nothing to laugh at, but kids adapted an older rhyme to leave us with:

I had a little bird,
Its name was Enza
I opened up the window
And in flew Enza.

One of our concerns about growing older is losing our memory. That prompted the following joke about two couples out for a walk, the two women in front and the two men behind.

Fred: "You know, we went to a great restaurant the other night."
Bill: "Really? What is it called?"
Fred: "What�s the name of that pretty flower with all the thorns?"
Bill: "You mean a rose?"
Fred: "Yeah, that�s it." (Raising his voice so the women can hear.) "Rose, what is the name of that restaurant we went to?"

About aging, comedian Billy Crystal said, "I sleep like a baby. I wake every two hours to pee!"

When the new millennium arrived and there was concern about computers going off kilter, I picked up a button that said, "Y2K? I�m not even ready for today!"

Recently, friend Jo sent an animated video of a cute dog sharing his advice for his human friends. He commented that he had heard two-legged family members talking about problems getting toilet paper. He said he didn't understand as his master had just cut his bum hair short and so he had no problem at all.

Friend Susan said being confined at home wasn't any big deal, but added she did find it strange that "one bag of rice had 8,956 grains while another had 8,743."

This sense of humor is not limited to us Americans. We received one from a French friend. He mentioned that after being confined for so long, he decided it might be helpful to go on a trip. He supplied a map of the places he might visit. The "map" was the floor plan of his home.

Psychologists often have said that "laughter is the best medicine" and can be a strong way to cope with serious situations. A March 26 Associated Press article - "If you don't laugh, you cry: Coping with virus through humor" - discussed this phenomenon. Author William J. Kole gave a couple of examples:

... A news anchor asked when social distancing will end because "my husband keeps trying to get into the house."

... A sign outside a neighborhood church reads: "Had not planned on giving up quite this much for Lent."

Kole interviewed Los Angeles comedian Erica Rhodes, who said, "It's more than just medicine. It's survival. Even during the Holocaust, people told jokes. Laughter is a symbol of hope, and it becomes one of our greatest needs of life, right up there with toilet paper. It's a physical need people have. You can't underestimate how it heals people and gives them hope."

He also interviewed Loretta LaRoche, a suburban Boston stress management consultant. She said, "All the hand washing in the world isn't going to clear up your head ... Some people will say this is not a time for laughter. The bottom line is, there is always a time for laughter. We have 60,000 thoughts a day and many of them are very disturbing. Laughter helps the brain relax."

I experienced that in 1997. I was in the hospital with an auto-immune disease that left me unable to walk, talk or do anything but blink one eye and fling one arm around. Art helped me cope by keeping me laughing, even joking about death.

An old man who loved baseball was sitting alone on a park bench when he heard the voice of his dead buddy.

Tom: "Jim, is there baseball in Heaven?"
Jim: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is there is. The bad news is you�re pitching Friday night."

I've sometimes said people spend too much time on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Twitter. But amusing social media posts can be a lifeline to maintaining a healthy brain. As long as they're in good taste and maybe a bit self-deprecating, they can help us maintain perspective in a world that feels completely off-kilter.

Sister Gaila sent an audio message called "Hello and Welcome to the Mental Health Hotline."

If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly. If you are co-dependent, ask someone to press 2 for you. If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want; stay on the line and we'll trace your call. If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship. If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press. If you are depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press, no one will answer you. If you are dyslexic, press 69696969. If you have a nervous disorder, please fidget with the hash key until the beep; after the beep, please wait for the beep. If you have short-term memory loss, please try your call again later. If you have low self-esteem, hang up; all our operators are too busy to talk to you.

She also sent a video of a handsome, well-muscled Latino dancing his heart out. Then the video cuts to supposedly the same young man after 15 days of isolation. In the second video, he is making the same sexy moves, but with a beer gut hanging over the top of his pants.

Sometimes humor can even be instructive, such as the fire-station post that read, "If you can smell the f*rt, you're too close!"

So, maybe laughter really is the best medicine.

Top-left: Friend Bryce shared the image of Sister Felicity; top-center: a posting sent by daughter Katie suddenly seems inappropriate; top-right: My Y2K button; bottom-left: Friend Jay shared this "Peanuts" cartoon; bottom-right: The Huber Heights, Ohio fire department posted a variation of a social distancing suggestion. (photo from the Dayton Daily News)

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